Cloud giant AWS goes all in on AI rush

The dominant cloud infrastructure player is pouring its resources into developing AI tools for the vast array of firms who rely on its data centers and tools.

Updated - December 09, 2023 09:31 pm IST

Published - December 09, 2023 08:32 pm IST - LAS VEGAS

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon delivery worker checks packages in New York City, U.S., July 11, 2022.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon delivery worker checks packages in New York City, U.S., July 11, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo | Photo Credit: Brendan McDermid

Amazon Web Services, the U.S. retail giant Amazon’s profitable cloud computing arm, signalled that it is going all in on the Artificial Intelligence bandwagon, telling a crowd in Las Vegas of 50,000 visiting developers and customers that it was now offering generative AI tools to make writing code and using its services more accessible with chat-like interfaces with enterprise users. (The company’s consumer-facing products like the Amazon Echo smart speaker don’t yet widely have the kind of capabilities it is now rushing to deploy for its enterprise clients.)

AWS is a giant in cloud and hosting, an industry that supports the bulk of the parts of the internet aside from access providers, providing people who want to host websites and run services online the resources and tools to do so. As a dominant player over decades, it is a key driver in the hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that Amazon rakes in each year. In Hyderabad and Mumbai, the firm operates two clusters of data centres, serving the local market in India. It has committed to invest $12.7 billion in the country by 2030.

The announcements that most excite its customers were in full supply across the firm’s keynotes in November: improvements that would let customers save on costs and do more with what they have, and launching new services that some of them have long been asking for. But the emphasis on AI reflects increasing pressures on corporate leaders in the cloud space to fulfill demand for applications of rapidly increasing complexity.

The firm announced Amazon Q, an enterprise chatbot along the lines of similar products by ChatGPT maker OpenAI and the search giant Google. The product would help with coding and working with AWS products, but also hook into companies’ own systems, while keeping sensitive information within businesses inaccessible to unauthorised personnel.

Some of those claims of confidentiality have since come under scrutiny, as internal messages by AWS employees appeared to show data leaks in testing, according to correspondence leaked to the technology news site Platformer. In any case, the service remains in preview mode, and is not yet launched fully.

These announcements come with Amazon’s heavy investments in AI, such as a $4 billion investment in Anthropic, a San Francisco based “AI safety and research company,” whose technology Amazon is leveraging for some of the products it announced at the event. The firm is also investing in partnerships such as with the graphics card maker NVIDIA to create purpose-built chips that can be used in server farms like the ones operated by AWS. 

And the rush to develop this technology is driven not just by the companies that are pouring unprecedented levels of money and resources into developing AI tools, but from firms of all sizes keen to trim their expenses on automatable tasks. “Organizations of all sizes are getting going with generative AI,” Adam Selipsky, AWS’s CEO said in his keynote. “They want to take the momentum that they’re building with early experimentation and turn it into real world productivity gains.”

(The writer was hosted by AWS at Re:Invent, a technology conference, at Las Vegas, in the United States.)

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